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How will Nats compensate for Werth's absence?


How will Nats compensate for Werth's absence?

The Nationals are going to be without Jayson Werth for awhile, likely until sometime in August after a specialist at the Mayo Clinic discovered two small fractures Thursday in his injured left wrist.

That’s not good news for the Nats, who now face at least two more months without their No. 3 hitter and trusted veteran outfielder.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it crippling news. Sure, the Nationals would much rather have Werth than not have him. But they’ve already established their ability to thrive without him. And they do have options to replace him in the short- and long-term.

The absence of Werth from the lineup for prolonged stretches is nothing new for the Nats. He missed three months when he broke the same wrist making a diving catch in 2012. He spent time on the disabled list in 2013 with a strained hamstring. And he battled through a shoulder injury last season, one that eventually required surgery to repair the AC joint.

Werth missed all of spring training and the season’s first week due to that shoulder ailment. Now he’s going to miss another long stretch of time with an injury to the same wrist that has plagued him several times during his career.

The Nationals, though, have shown they can win with Werth sidelined. Lest anyone forget, they won 98 games in 2012 despite that 3-month DL stint, including a 47-34 record when he was out of the lineup. (That’s a .580 winning percentage.)

And they’ve established they can win without him already this season. Since Werth last played May 15, the Nationals have gone 9-2.

So the notion that general manager Mike Rizzo needs to go out and acquire another left fielder to take Werth’s place is a bit misguided. For one thing, Werth isn’t out for the season. He will be coming back, and Rizzo isn’t the type who usually gets pressured into picking up a player to fill in for only 2 1/2 months.

Werth also remains under contract for two more seasons after 2015, owed $21 million in 2016 and again in 2017. He’s not going anywhere.

What of the Nationals’ options to replace Werth until he’s healthy again? They may not be awe-inspiring, but they’re far from a black hole, either. Michael Taylor, Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson have held their own while filling in for Werth and actually have been just as productive at the plate as the man they back up.

Nationals left fielders this season are hitting a collective .210 with a .281 on-base percentage, .307 slugging percentage and .588 OPS. That’s not very good.

Werth, though, sported a .578 OPS at the time of his injury, and even though he had picked up the pace in the final week before getting hurt, he still wasn’t producing up to his career norms.

Take Werth’s stats out of the mix, and the Nationals’ remaining left fielders have been just as productive, even more so in some cases: a .215 batting average, .271 on-base percentage, .329 slugging percentage and .600 OPS. Still below-average, but the guy they had for most of the season’s first six weeks was producing at below-average levels to begin with.

Point is, the Nationals should be able to get away with what they already have. Taylor has sparkled at times, struggled at others. But he’s guaranteed to provide excellent defense, and given the current makeup of the lineup, he’s not really needed to do much at the plate. Moore remains a solid threat against left-handed pitchers, while Robinson continues to be a threat against right-handers.

Besides, it’s too early in the season to make significant trades. They rarely happen at this stage of the game. If, come mid-to-late July, the Nationals still aren’t getting any production out of their left fielders and Werth remains several weeks from returning, they could always try to acquire a stop-gap at the trade deadline.

But that’s a decision that doesn’t need to be made for awhile. Yes, the Nationals will be hurt by the loss of Werth. But based on what we’ve seen over the years, they’re plenty capable of making up for his absence.

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If the Nationals’ season isn’t over, it’s close

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If the Nationals’ season isn’t over, it’s close

NEW YORK -- Dealing with tomorrow has often become the only palatable way for the Nationals to forget yesterday.

They lose in eye-gouging fashion, roll in the next day to reset, and, at least in New York, find a topper. That formula has them on a train home from what could have been a series for re-emergence, but instead placed them in a worse place than they started. Washington is 19-31 following a sweep in Flushing. It would have to go 71-41 (a .634 winning percentage) to reach 90 wins. If it’s not already, the season is on the verge of being over. Manager Davey Martinez disputed that idea.

“I mean we're not out of it that's for sure, I can tell you that right now," Martinez said after Thursday’s 6-4 loss. “Like I said, everyday we're close, we compete, we're in every game. Now we just got to finish games.”

A slog-filled drive from midtown to Queens delivered the tired team back to its baseball quarters Thursday morning. Sean Doolittle changed then pulled his red hood up, sitting at his locker 10 hours after he stated he was “disgusted” with himself for Wednesday’s crash. Such a devastating night has been common for the 2019 Nationals. It was not for Doolittle. He hit a batter for the first time since May 29, 2018. He allowed four earned runs in an outing for the fifth time in 348 career appearances (1.4 percent of the time he pitches). In keeping with the season, the worst-possible outcome arrived at the worst-possible time, then another terrible one followed.

Martinez remained upbeat, sipping a morning drink concoction common in his native Puerto Rico. He rewatched Wednesday's game -- a masochist’s errand this season -- as he regularly does, went to sleep around 2 a.m., awoke at 7, arrived at Citi Field around 9:45. The leash on his future has been shortened greatly by the four failing days in New York.

The Nationals wandered out for stretch and light throwing in front of an oddball scene. Thursday was “Weather Day” at Citi Field with the Big Apple-famous Mr. G hosting in his Mets jersey. Mr. G  -- known to his friends as Irv Gikofsy, New York City’s most popular weatherman -- kicked up a “Let’s go Mets!” chant down the third base line while the Nationals relievers ran routes and caught a foam football to get loose in the same part of the park. The recently re-emerged Mrs. Met, who popped back up in 2013 after decades of dormancy, used her giant noggin to nod along.

The game was another compilation of missed opportunities, bullpen disasters and bad luck. Washington left eight runners on base through the first six innings alone. The Mets’ path to runs was aided by slop and basics. Carlos Gomez single in the fifth. He ran to steal second, Yan Gomes’ throw went into center field, Gomez went on to third base. A sacrifice fly scored him.

J.D. Davis singled in the sixth. Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch. Stephen Strasburg’s wild pitch moved them both over. Another sacrifice fly scored one, a Wilson Ramos infield single scored the other. The Mets led, 3-1.

The Nationals didn’t score with runners on first and third and one out in the first. They did not score after Juan Soto’s leadoff triple in the second inning. They did not score after a one-out double in the third. They did not score with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth. They did not score with a runner on second and one out in the fifth. This is not hyperbole for effect. It’s facts. Sigh-worthy ones.

The only effective offseason signings are Kurt Suzuki and Patrick Corbin. The others have not just resided below expectations, they have been among the worst in the league at their position.

Gomes, acquired in a trade, leads the league in passed balls. He’s committed three errors in his 29 starts. Coming into Thursday, he had a 65 OPS-plus (100 is average).

Brian Dozier started the afternoon with a 73 OPS-plus and -0.5 WAR. Those two numbers would be worse if not for a recent uptick both in the field and plate from him.

And, the most egregious failure of the offseason has been Trevor Rosenthal’s saga. Martinez was asked directly Wednesday if Rosenthal simply has the “yips”. He said they still believe Rosenthal’s problems are mechanics, not thoughts, despite him throwing baseballs to the backstop in central Pennsylvania. The luxury-tax averse Nationals are paying him $6 million to do so.

Finally, Thursday was enough for Martinez to shed his tranquility. After Howie Kendrick was ejected in the top of the eighth, Martinez ran to home plate to start an argument of his own. He half-circled home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, yelled, pointed and carried on in a manner that begged Dreckman to throw him out. He did. Martinez went from rankled to furious. He spiked his hat, kicked the dirt, and yelled some more. The event provided his third career ejection and looked to be among the final moves of a manager on the verge of returning to private life.

A strange thing followed: his team rallied for three runs to take a 4-3 lead. No matter. There’s no goodness Washington’s bullpen can’t undermine. Wander Suero gave up a three-run homer in the eighth to Gomez. New day, different reliever, same ear-bleeding outcome.

Which again made talking about tomorrow the only way to deal with the grotesqueness of today. Trouble is tomorrow may not matter anymore.

“Things are going to change,” Martinez said. “Things are going to change. And I know that. So we just got to keep pounding away, keep playing baseball. There's good players in that clubhouse, really good players. We'll turn things around.”



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An irate Davey Martinez ejected in 8th inning as Nats swept by Mets


An irate Davey Martinez ejected in 8th inning as Nats swept by Mets

Perhaps Davey Martinez senses his job security is in serious jeopardy as the team continues to underperform and slip its way down the competitive NL East division. 

The second-year Nationals manager, who's gone 101-111 since accepting the job, reached a boiling point Thursday when he was ejected in the 8th for arguing a called strike three on a Howie Kendrick check swing. 

“I just didn’t think he [Kendrick] swung. And we just got into it. All I did was tell him to ask for help. That’s why the first base umpire’s there. And he didn’t like it. I did what I had to do.”

"Things are going to change. Things are going to change. And I know that. So we just got to keep pounding away, keep playing baseball. there's good players in that clubhouse, really good players. We'll turn things around," Martinez reiterated postgame, as he so often has this season. 

Martinez, typically mild-mannered in the dugout, tied Matt Williams on the all-time career ejections as a manager list with his third Thursday. 

First-year National and MLB veteran second baseman Brian Dozier stood behind his manager after the crushing loss. 

“Davey does a really, really good job of always defending his players. Whether that be on the field to an umpire, to you guys, in the media, in the clubhouse, wherever it is, he does a really good job of that.”

The Nationals' 6-4 loss to New York marked the team's fifth straight as it falls to 19-31 on the season. They return home Friday night for a four-game set at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins.